Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Dr. of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Wayne Sanderson

Committee Member

Dr. Steven Browning

Committee Member

Dr. Robin Vanderpool


Introduction: This capstone assessed and addressed the issue of occupational opioid exposure among first responders working in the southeastern United States from 2017-2019. The first study aimed to assess the emerging issue of occupational opioid exposure as well as current knowledge and training practices among first responders of the following southeastern states: Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia. The second study aimed to address this emerging issue through formative research followed by evaluation of the impact of an educational video and associated knowledge gained with a group of Kentucky-based first responders.

Methods: The analysis drew from three primary datasets: (1) self-reported anonymous questionnaire data from first responders residing in Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi, and Georgia; (2) formative, qualitative data from two groups of Kentucky-based first responders (metro and nonmetro); and (3) pre- and post-intervention data from Kentucky-based first responders.

Results: Findings from the multistate study indicated that 15% of the 5,955 respondents reported exposure to opioids; less than 1% (0.6%) reported experiencing exposure-related health effects. Despite low likelihood of exposures, there was a high level of concern about future exposure and associated health effects. Results from the mixed methods study indicated that while opioid exposure was not a concern, needle stick injuries were the most concerning. The NIOSH intervention video had significant effects on mean knowledge, self-efficacy, and outcome expectancy scores. Lastly, evaluation of the NIOSH video resulted in favorable findings with obtaining new knowledge, changing perception of risk, and length of video.

Conclusions: Future interventions should focus on the development of more videos incorporating different types of first responders. Further research is needed to validate measurement tools to assess change in knowledge and behavior among first responders. Continued collaboration between government organizations and university research institutions is crucial in the identification of emerging occupational-related health issues and the development and evaluation of tools to address the health issues.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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